Lightbulb Wars: We're Testing 18 Light Bulbs in 10 Weeks!

Test Lab: Week One

It only takes one look at this post (and, well, this post, this post, and this post) to know that the topic of energy efficient bulbs—like compact fluorescents and LEDs—versus standard incandescent bulbs is a hot and bothered one. (No one is conserving energy in voicing their opinions, that's for sure.) But with the recent House vote to withhold funding to enforce part of a 2007 law aimed at significantly increasing light bulb energy efficiency, the war between those looking forward and those holding onto the past is on. And we're stepping into the fray—through the flurry of media misinformation on what the laws and standards actually are, past the throngs of incandescent light bulb hoarders— and walking right into the Apartment Therapy Test Lab...

What We're Doing

The biggest gripe people have about energy efficient bulbs is that they can't get them to give off the same look and light of an incandescent. That may have been the case as little as two years ago, but the most recent crop of energy efficient bulbs are a whole new breed, and we believe they run neck-and-neck with incandescents. Thus, for the next ten weeks we'll be testing and rating 18 bulbs—6 compact fluorescents, 6 LEDs, and 6 halogen incandescents— to help you find an energy-efficient bulb that gives the exact look and feel you want.

Why We're Doing It

We want to encourage readers not to be afraid of energy-efficient lightbulbs! They can still be totally design-ey and mood altering; they're just not sucking up as much energy.

We also want to set the record straight and help readers a) understand the issues around the lightbulb wars, b) know what information is true and what's false.

For example: are you an incandescent lightbulb hoarder? "Everytime I go to Costco I buy more [incandescent] wattage," said decorator Bunny Williams to The New York Times a few weeks ago. Bryan Batt (known as Sal Romano on Mad Men) urges his readers in his new book to forgo the wine and bring a case of incandescent light bulbs as a hostess gift instead. Sue Larkin of Tulsa, Oklahoma told USA Today that she's "stocked up on enough incandescent bulbs to last for the next 50 years."

The ironic part of all this? Incandescent light bulbs are not being banned! People only think they are! The reality is that in 2007 the U.S. Congress adopted energy efficiency standards for new screw-based light bulbs. The standards mandate that beginning in 2012 the standard incandescent bulb (the same one developed by Thomas Edison 125 years ago, mind you) will be phased out in favor of more energy-efficient bulbs including... wait for it... incandescent bulbs.

Yes, that's right. Incandescent bulbs aren't leaving altogether; they just need to use at least 25-30% less energy, which means they need to be designed better. And who are we to fight against better design?

Coming up... Next week we'll have give a rundown on the current and coming laws and standards, the resistance efforts to roll back those standards, and a Q&A on myths and facts about energy efficient bulbs.

(Image: Gregory Han)

13 Comments